Nothing had prepared Anjola for the radical changes that ravished her body in the following months into her pregnancy. It was as though some unseen force had stood at the gate till she finally decided she would keep the baby and then it calmly stepped back for the waves to wash over her.
Besides the occasional morning sickness and slight weight increase, she had not experienced much changes in the first few weeks. But after some days at the Adegbite’s, she became a basket case. At a point, Mrs. Adegbite had joked that they may have to admit her in the hospital with the way she was going.
Anjola did not find it funny.
All of a sudden, her emotions were all over the place. She could be light hearted one minute and sulking the next over meaningless things. She wondered if her body belonged to her anymore.
Mrs. Adegbite had been extremely patient through it all, encouraging her and even chuckling when she got in one of her moods.
“I was like that too. It was particularly worse when I was carrying Emmanuel. But I learned that I have control over my emotions. The Spirit helps our weaknesses,” she had said and Anjola wondered what the Spirit had to do with anything that was happening to her.
Her body developed a mind of its own and in between her unpredictable moods and bloating body, Mrs. Adegbite continued counselling her. They unearthed several issues in her life that left her bare, the process was slow and painful, but after a few weeks she started praying again. The first time she did so, she asked God to forgive her for…everything.
She had a distinct feeling He heard and held her the way Mrs. Adegbite and Victoria had done when she came back home.
Once, Henry called her while she was in the kitchen. Emmanuel handed her phone and walked back to the living room.
“Where have you been?” he asked without preamble.
Anjola frowned. “Who is this?”
“This is Sli…Henry,” he sounded different.
“Oh. How did you get my number?”
“You filled out a form, remember?”
She remembered. And she also remembered that she had decided not to have anything to do with him again.
“What do you want?”
“Heyy! Is that a way to talk to your friend you haven’t spoken to in months?”
Anjola shook her head, annoyed. She was tired of this game. “Look you’re not my friend. You’ve never been, I don’t know what you want. I only thought you could help me as you said you could, but I don’t need your help anymore.” She ended the call.
Victoria came around several times a week and had stayed away only when she had exams or during the period of the youth outreach at Aje. She had begged Anjola to come along with them but she refused. She was already showing and wasn’t ready to explain her absence to anyone, especially her friend, Bose. Occasionally, her mother came around and strangely it did not get awkward. She even promised to start going to church but Anjola did not hold her breath on that. Toke also came around once in a while and it always made her realize how much she missed her cousin.
“I price baby cloth when I am coming back from work yesterday. Is the baby boy or girl?” she asked on one of her visits.
Anjola shook her head, “Please I’m begging you; don’t buy hand-me-downs for my baby!”
“Vin-tage, you have start again. You better be sharp because you know now you will be a mother.”
“I don’t want, abeg.”
“Do you even know how much they are selling it?”
She rolled her eyes. The games were about to begin. “How much?”
Anjola sighed. “Just tell me. I’m not in the mood for games,” she snapped.
“What’s doing you? Somebody cannor play with you again?” Toke hissed and named a ridiculous price.
Anjola shook her head. “Don’t buy that for my baby.”
She had only spent a few weeks before she began to see Pastor Adegbite as a father she never really had. He was quiet and was not as bubbly as his wife who could start a conversation with a mule. But he was kind and very insightful. He had answers for everything and corrected her when necessary yet Anjola did not feel threatened by him.
Sometimes she still had nightmares. She would wake with a scream caught in her throat and sweat beaded on her forehead. She always dreamt of the tall man with a hat and she wondered if her torment was not over yet.
Anjola spent more time studying the Bible, especially since she had more time on her hands and she began to notice changes. It was almost imperceptible but it was there. She knew this when she was speaking with Mrs. Adegbite and she had gone, “…and the bible said …”
The older woman had given her a teasing smile, “Look who has become a Bible scholar.”
And it wasn’t just because she mindlessly memorized it but it flowed out as a truth she just knew, a truth that had become real to her. Even though she still struggled to understand a lot of things, she knew she was growing. After a while, when she got in one of her moods, before she reacted, sulked or snapped impatiently at Emmanuel, Victoria or anybody around, a scripture she read would come to her mind and she would hold back.
It was then she began to understand that the Spirit had everything to do with what was happening to her.
* * *
It was with pleasure and a sense of awe that Victoria watched Anjola unfold. It was like a flower opening up to the sun.
She had never seen anything so beautiful.
It had started with a little disturbance and then gradually expanded to several ripples that spanned more radius than she imagined.
It was not the Big Bang or a raging thunder but a quiet trickle that was almost imperceptible. Anjola began to talk about God in a way she hadn’t heard her do in a long time. Her heart was no longer closed up, no longer angry at a god she thought needed her forgiveness.
She started talking about and preparing for the baby like she couldn’t wait for it to come. She went with Mrs. Adegbite to get some furniture and worked with Emmanuel to set up the crib and repaint the room.
Victoria had laughed at her. “Girl, the baby still has a few months before it makes an appearance.”
“What?” Victoria frowned, puzzled.
“The baby is not an ‘it’ but a she.”
Victoria smiled, amused. “And how did you know this?”
She shrugged. “I just know.”
The ultrasound came in the next week.
“It’s a girl!” Mrs. Adegbite announced at dinner and Victoria tried not to note Anjola’s smug smile across the table.
Victoria spent some weekends at home and others at the Adegbite’s. She stayed with Anjola and sometimes they talked into the night, giggling like little girls. Most times, Mrs. Adegbite had to March to their door and tell them to shut up but this only made them laugh harder to her exasperation. They shared scriptures, prayed and when Victoria saw a good book, she bought two of it and they read it together.
The outreach at Aje had turned out better than any of them imagined. Several souls had been won and so many girls had come forward to admit that they had been raped before. Victoria had cried herself to sleep that night, remembering the look of shame and pain on some of their faces, the sheer joy that followed after they confessed Jesus and the men who had all come out that moment, raising empty hands and beer bottles. As part of their goal to address social issues, they had done free tests and treatments, counselling and seminars that addressed prevalent issues that plagued them.
Uncle Chidi had said it did not end there. Victoria thought so too and so did the church when they got the report.
It had lasted a week. They had spent and been spent but it was worth it.
And it made her realize with so much clarity that there were many more Anjolas out there.
* * * *
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